Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Cost of Discipleship

The Cost of Discipleship

I just finished this terrific book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Here are passages that stood out to me:

Where moral difficulties are taken so seriously, where they torment and enslave man, because they do not leave him open to the freeing activity of obedience, it is there that his total godlessness is revealed.

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By calling us he has cut us off from all immediacy with the things of this world. He wants to be the center, through him alone all things shall come to pass. He stands between us and God, and for that very reason he stands between us and all other men and things. He is the Mediator, not only between God and man, but between man and man, between man and reality. Since the whole world was created through him and unto him (John 1:3; 1 Cor. 8:6; Heb. 1:2), he is the sole Mediator in the world.

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The otherworldliness of the Christian life ought, Luther concluded, to be manifested in the very midst of the world, in the Christian community, and in its daily life. Hence the Christian’s task is to live out that life in terms of his secular calling. That is the way to die unto the world. The value of the secular calling for the Christian is that it provides an opportunity of living the Christian life with the support of God’s grace, and of engaging more vigorously in the assault on the world and everything it stands for.

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The whoremonger desires to possess another person, the covetous man material things. The covetous man seeks dominion and power, but only to become a slave of the world on which he has set his heart. Whoredom and covetousness alike bring men into contact with the world in such a way as to defile them and make then unclean. Both vices are idolatry, for their victims have ceased to belong to God and Christ, desiring the goods of their own world instead. But when we create our own god and our own world, what we are really doing is to deify our own lust. We are then bound to hate our fellow men, as obstacles standing in the way of our wills. Hatred, jealousy, and murder are all of them the fruits of selfish lust.

The German Bonhoeffer was no doubt familiar with Nietzsche, whose deification of the will established a tyranny of self, which is all the rage. Read here and here.

Here, right from the beginning, is the mysterious paradox of man. He is a creature, and yet he is destined to be like his Creator. Created man is destined to bear the image of uncreated God. Adam is “as God.” His destiny is to bear this mystery, in gratitude and obedience towards his Maker. But the false serpent persuaded Adam that he must still do something to become like God: he must achieve that likeness by deciding and acting for himself. Through this choice Adam rejected the grace of God, choosing his own action. He wanted instead to unravel the mystery of his being for himself, to make himself what God had already made him. That was the Fall of man. Adam became “as God,” sicut deus, in his own way. But, now that he had made himself god, he no longer had a God. He ruled in solitude as a creator-god in a God-forsaken world.

However, the riddle of human nature was still unsolved. With the loss of the God-like nature God had given him, man had forfeited the destiny of his being, which was to be like God. In short, man had ceased to be man. He must live without the ability to live. Herein lies the paradox of human nature and the source of all our woe. Since that day, the sons of Adam in their pride have striven to recover the divine image by their own efforts.

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God sends His Son—here lies the only remedy. It is not enough to give man a new philosophy or a better religion. A Man comes to men. Every man bears an image. His body and his life become visible. A man is not a bare word, a thought, or a will. He is above all and always a man, a form, an image, a brother. And thus he does not create around him just a new way of thought, will, and action but he gives us the new image, the new form. Now in Jesus Christ this is just what has happened. The image of God has entered our midst, in the form of our fallen life, in the likeness of sinful flesh bin the teaching and acts of Christ, in his life and death, the image of God is revealed. In him the divine image had been recreated on earth.

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